THE DEEP ONES: "The Theft of the Thirty-Nine Girdles" by Clark Ashton Smith
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"The Theft of the Thirty-Nine Girdles" by Clark Ashton Smith
Discussion begins on November 28, 2018.
First published in the March 1958 issue of Saturn Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine.
SELECTED PRINT VERSIONS
The Last Hieroglyph: Volume Five of the Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith
The Tsathoggua Cycle: Terror Tales of the Toad God
Online for me.
Saturn magazine, huh! That's a new one to me, even the title is unfamiliar.
Well, that was a fairly seamless heist, Marquanos aside. I enjoyed the planning and the details, although this isn't quite up to the level of Melville's classic film LE CERCLE ROUGE. I immediately suspected that Veezi Phenquor would be up to no good, but the denouement was still an amusing one.
Been awhile since I read this one. On this re-read, I appreciated the cynicism and erotic details of the story.
Note in The Last Hieroglyph indicate Smith tried to sell this to Anthony Boucher at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He rejected it on grounds that it was just a crime story in an exotic setting and had no fantastic element. I'm not sure I agree. There seems a hint of magic in the visions Veezi's powder produces.
I begin as usual with a short list of the new & admirable vocabulary employed by CAS! I hope I shall remember both adit and lupanar, and could only smile at such coinages as abdominous jar, charnel fetors, and Leniqua's image, presenting its reverend rear, sat on a high dais in the center of the nave.
It is curious that Satampra, our narrator, would leave so much of the heist details to Veezi, given Satampra's alleged care and success in prior burglaries. Seemingly a sub-par performance for him, even careless.
I do admire CAS's decision to state at the onset that Satampra did not profit much from the heist. This effectively restored the tension to the story which otherwise would seem guaranteed to end in success, given that the narrator is around to tell the tale.
Do we think Veezi is truthful in stating that Marquanos is responsible for putting the police onto the burglars? I wondered perhaps if the story (and perhaps, the very real efforts by priesthood and police) was more likely cover for his escape. Else it would seem more prudent to simply leave and not warn Satampra and Vixeela at all.
It is curious that Satampra, our narrator, would leave so much of the heist details to Veezi, given Satampra's alleged care and success in prior burglaries.
At one point I had to stop and backtrack to make sure that it was indeed Veezi, and not Satampra, who was running down the details of the plan!
I found it very different in tone to CAS usual work. Of course this was written 20 or more years later. It feels post-war, 1950s - sort of breezily flip rather than, in his usual decadent fin de siecle way, ironically showing the workings-out of his characters' fates (the usual ornate dialogue drifting a little close to a Fantasy version of Damon Runyon, perhaps?
Or had the heroic fantasy genre developed since the thirties, especially perhaps with Fritz Leiber's work in the field (I am genuinely guessing here because I don't know enough about the development of the genre) that this is now the norm for this kind of tale?
Anyway I enjoyed it, but note that it doesn't have any of the elements of the Weird that we've enumerated when we've attempted
a definition. It's a crime story - a heist story, as already noted - in an exotic setting.
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